Month: June 2015

Merewif

Last winter was a particularly cold one, and I found myself wearing the same hat almost the entire winter — my only extremely warm one. It’s a burgundy wool cabled number which I then felted. So toasty, but a little variety would have been welcome to get through those stark, white and grey months.

This prompted me to take an inventory of my winter hats. I discovered I had one knitted band with embroidered flowers and beads that goes over my ears, one crocheted not very warm wool and silk beret, one thin knitted beanie, and a knitted beret which I’d call medium-warm — not suitable for below freezing temperatures but OK for the 30s and 40s. Clearly, I needed to knit myself a few more hats.

The other thing I’ve been wanting to do is dye some yarn! I read about using food coloring gel and the crock pot to dye yarn and my imagination kicked into overdrive. I love the idea of using food coloring, because it’s non-toxic at the small amounts used, so you can still use all of your pots, bowls, and utensils for food afterward. I had bought some when I was a new baker to experiment with, but didn’t use very much of it, so I had it on hand.

It all came together nicely: Karie Westermann released her Seaforth hat a few months beforehand, I had some undyed wool that was the right weight, and a Sunday which I knew was going to be rainy and indoor-sy. So I got to dyeing!

There are scads of dyeing with food coloring in the crock pot directions on the internet, so I won’t go into detail but briefly:

* I soaked my yarn in cold water and a little less than a cup of white vinegar overnight. Most directions I see say 30 minutes or an hour of soaking, but I think the long soak made for even coloring.

* I took my yarn out of the soaking bowl and put it in another bowl so that I could re-use the soaking water for dyeing. Dyeing is already a water intensive process so I wanted to re-use what I could. Just pour it in your crock pot after removing the yarn.

* I put the dye in the water as a base color, swished it a bit, then dropped additional color in the water, swished it a very small bit, then put my yarn in, added more drops of the additional colors, and very gently poked it (agitation felts yarn which is why I was careful). I used blue as the base color, then used green and purple as the dropped colors.

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* Put your crock pot on high, put on the cover, and let it go for about an hour. Then, start testing to see if the color is exhausted (this means your yarn is colored, but the water is clear). You can use a spoon to ladle out some of the water to check if it’s clear. I think mine took a total of 1.5 hours.

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* Now is the time to be patient. Shut off your crock pot and let it sit for a few hours to slowly cool. Then take the lid off and let it cool to almost room temperature. Then put your yarn in a colander and let it cool all the way to room temperature. Quick changes in temperature can felt yarn so time and patience is your friend right now.

* Time to rinse! Gentle, gentle, gentle. If you let your color exhaust properly this shouldn’t be much of a problem. I put a little wool wash in a bowl of room temperature water, put my yarn in, let it soak 20 minutes, then took another room temperature bowl of water, let it soak another 20 minutes, and that was it. Don’t swish the yarn around. No dye ran so I was confident it was rinsed enough.

*Place your yarn in an old towel and gently roll it up and gently squeeze the water from it. Did I mention you should be gentle? 🙂

* Now let it dry. My husband had a rack that he stored musical equipment in but it broke. There were two rods still intact which is great for my purposes, so I now have a drying rack! I’m sure you can drape it over a hanger in your bathroom or even lay it on a towel to dry too.

I absolutely loved the dyeing process. My favorite part was the mystery of it as a new dyer using non-commercial dye. Although I know a little about color mixing, I truly did not know how the dyes were going to react with each other and with the yarn. I was surprised to see a mostly green skein of yarn emerge from the dye pot when I used so much more blue coloring. I was also surprised how the purple stayed more intact and make little magenta speckles here and there. I was worried about them until I started knitting — they look like small accents once knitted, and not glaring spots.

 

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The Seaforth hat, like all of Karie Westermann’s patterns I’ve knit,  was a pleasure. Everything fits together so beautifully from the irregular ribbing which sets up the lace pattern, the intuitive yet fun to knit lace, and the reducing through the crown which riffs off those ssk decreases in the lace.  Knitting it was a true labor of love, not only because it was a lovely pattern to knit, but because I was knitting it with yarn I dyed myself. Talk about imbuing something you made with intention!

I love the way it came out,

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I adore the details,

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and it’s so, so warm.

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I named my creation Merewif — Old English — loosely translated to sea witch. It’s one of the words mermaid came from, and I think the color is very mermaid-y. It also honors Karie’s Seaforth idea as the pattern was named after an unhabited island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. I got chills when I read weeks after I named it that there is Hebridean folklore about kelpies, merpeople, and other water spirits!

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Nailed It

Every … once a year? once every other year? I have to buy a package of emery boards to file my nails. I guess I must get enough protein or something because my nails are very strong and I have to basically sand them down every week or so to make them a length that will let me Do Stuff.

When I had my bone tool making class and used both files and sandpaper to work the bones, a lightbulb went off — why am I using emery boards, which are like sandpaper (refining), when what I need to do is file down these suckers?!

So I bought a nail file:

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I know this seems like the most miniscule change, but what sold me on this file is that for a little more than the price of a pack of emery boards, I have a file that should last for decades. In fact, the review that sold me on this particular file said that she had bought one in the 1960s, had been  using it ever since, and only bought this new one because the plastic handle crumbled off and it was hard to use! If you are interested in the brand, it’s a Pfeilring Sapphire. It has a fine side and a more, ah, rigorous side, so you get the ability to saw down the claws and also shape them nicely 🙂

I hope to never buy another pack of emery boards (and their extra paper and plastic) ever again! Every little bit counts.

 

Notebook Booknotes

The Guild of Book Workers annual meeting is coming up this week, and I figured that no self-respecting book artist would go to the annual meeting with a store-bought notebook! I got the agenda of the meeting, and we are talking business and projects for a little over an hour (the rest of the meeting is for food and beer!) so I didn’t need a notebook with lots of pages. I also wanted to do something interesting that could serve as a memento of my first guild meeting (insert hearts, flowers, and starry eyes. I belong to a guild!).

One of the innovative structures I learned this past semester in class was the fishbone book. I thought it would be neat to use beautiful paper for the structure then put a simple black  cardstock cover on it a la a Moleskine. Sort of a steath art book. So — I got to work:

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Nice matte black cover with a simple Cavallini vintage style label.

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Another label showing it’s one of a kind.

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It looks like it could be a regular notebook (note the dreamy Hahnemuhle paper).

But when you open it you realize it’s quite something else!

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See?

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I’m thinking I can write in the pages from bottom to top, sideways instead of the traditional top to bottom. I have already stuck a nice archival ink Micron pen in my bag to write with. After the meeting, I will not only have a written record, but if I choose to open it for display, I will have an objet d’art 🙂

I’d like to think of more ways to use this structure — maybe a series of images that fit together when closed yet display beautifully when open? I love the idea of a disarming secret artistry in a recognized every day cover, playing with your perception of what is a book and what is art.

Me Made May: Making People Welcome

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It’s June First! Me Made May is officially over, but I have one more thing to share. I had a dinner party on Saturday evening and was reminded just how lovely opening your home to guests and making a meal for others is. There is something magical about getting everything comfortable for people, choosing foods to make that you think they will like, then working to make it happen. I find the reverse true, too! I love an invitation to someone’s home 1029381983304802839 times more than an invitation to a restaurant.

What makes it special? Maybe it is all that intention centered around doing things with a few people in mind — it translates into good feelings of welcome and care. Much like knitting something for warmth, or carving a tool for use, the preparation is imbued with your purpose and energy. There is also something primal and as-old-as-humankind about the power of sharing your food with others: sustenance in more ways than one.

“Entertaining” — like so many things in our culture — has become overblown and misses the mark. I don’t even like the word. I’m not an actor, singer, dancer, or musician and I’m not putting on a show. I’m simply making a meal and a comfortable place to spend a few hours for people I like. I don’t fret about my home being “perfect” enough to have people over (truth be told the ceiling over my dining room table is damaged from a plumbing issue. So it goes.) or my cooking not turning out well (in fact, against common dinner party advice, I always make things I’ve never made before. It is the perfect opportunity to try that new recipe I’ve had my eye on!). I just do my best knowing that if someone is a bird of a feather, that will be exactly right 🙂

That isn’t to say that things shouldn’t be special and that it isn’t work! I had flowers in each room, picked wines to go with the courses, used my Grand Aunt’s china, and carefully blocked my hand knit napkins so that they would look crisp and cared for. I made lists and scheduled my time and cleaned places that hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while. I gave my cat a lecture on good manners, and made sure there was a place for everything and everything in its place. None of these things involved spending gobs of money, but rather lots of care.

I realized that if you are a maker, you care about things. You put energy out instead of always consuming. Whether it’s making a meal or a dress or a friendship, it’s creation. Participating in Me Made May not only helped me realize the concrete things like I want to sew more or make breakfast bars, but helped me think about making more abstractly as process, and not only as a final output. Maybe I should have renamed it Me Make May — I’m most interested in the action verb ❤

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